The Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony

Appeal by ECS, "To the Women of the Empire State"

To the Women of the Empire State.

It is the desire and purpose of those interested in the Woman's Rights Movement, to send up to our next Legislature, an overwhelming petition, for the Civil and Political Rights of Woman.[2] These rights must be secured just so soon as the majority of the women of the state make the demand. To this end we have decided thoroughly to canvas our state before the close of the present year. We shall hold conventions in every county, distribute tracts and circulate petitions, in order, if possible, to arouse a proper self respect in woman.[3]
The want of funds has heretofore crippled all our efforts, but as large bequests have been made to our cause during the past year, we are now able to send out agents and to commence anew our work which shall never end until in church and state, and at the fire-side, the equality of woman shall be fully recognized.[4]
We hope much from our Republican Legislators. Their well known professions encourage us to believe that our task is by no means a hard one. We shall look for their hearty co-operation in every effort for the elevation of humanity. We have had Bills before the Legislature for several years, on some of which, from time to time, have been most favorable reports. The property bill of '48 was passed by a large majority. The various bills of rights, to wages, children, suffrage, & c., have been respectfully considered. The Bill presented at the last Session, giving to married women their rights to make contracts, and to their wages, passed the House with only three dissenting voices, but owing to the pressure of business at the close of the session, it was never brought before the Senate.[5]
Whilst man, by his legislation and generous donations, declares our cause righteous and just— whilst the very best men of the nation— those who stand first in church and state, in literature, commerce and the arts, are speaking for us such noble words and performing such God-like deeds, shall woman, herself, be indifferent to her own wrongs, insensible to all the responsibilities of her high and holy calling? No! No!! Let the women of the Empire State now speak out in deep and earnest tones that cannot be misunderstood; demanding all those rights which are at the very foundation of Republicanism— a full and equal representation with man in the administration of our State and National Government.
Do you know, women of New York, that under our present laws married women have no right to the wages they earn? Think of the 40,000 drunkards' wives in this state— of the wives of men who are licentious— of gamblers— of the long line of those who do nothing; and is it no light matter that all these women who support themselves, their husbands, and families, too, shall have no right to the disposition of their own earnings? Roll up, then, your Petitions on this point, if no other, and secure to laboring women their wages at the coming session.
Now is the golden time to work. Before another Constitutional Convention be called, see to it, that the public sentiment of this state shall demand suffrage for woman. Remember, "they who would be free must themselves strike the blow."[6]
E. Cady Stanton, Chairman Central Committee.
Circular, Matilda Joslyn Gage Scrapbooks, Rare Books, DLC. Also in Rochester Union and Advertiser, 12 July 1859, Film, 9:341; Seneca County Courier, 25 July 1859; Sibyl, 1 August 1859.
    [1.] Though undated, the circular was published in newspapers by 12 July 1859.
    [2.] For petition, see document 92b.
    [3.] SBA and Antoinette Blackwell began this canvass on July 13 in Niagara Falls and traveled together until September 22 at Oswego. Acting as general agent, SBA arranged further engagements through the fall and winter for Frances Gage, Hannah Cutler, J. Elizabeth Jones, and Lucy Colman. At the woman's rights meeting in May 1860 she reported that the canvass reached forty counties and 150 towns. (National Anti-Slavery Standard, July-December 1859; Anthony, 1:175-78; History, 1:689-92; Lasser and Merrill, Friends and Sisters, 155-59; SBA daybook, pp. 121, 125, Film, 8:620ff, 9:370-73.)
    [4.] In addition to the anonymous woman's rights fund, the movement received a bequest from Charles F. Hovey in 1859. His will, proved on 30 May, stipulated that the residue of his estate be placed in a special trust to be spent, at a rate of eight thousand dollars annually, to promote the antislavery cause and "other reforms, such as Woman's Rights, NonResistance, Free Trade and Temperance." (History, 1:667-68; "Extracts From the Will of the Late Charles F. Hovey, Esq.," broadside, SBA scrapbook 1, Rare Books, DLC.)
    [5.] The New York State Assembly considered "an act for the protection of the property in trade and earnings of married women" in 1859 and passed it overwhelmingly on April 8. The measure did not come to a vote in the senate. (Basch, In the Eyes of the Law, 194; Journal of the New York Assembly, 8 February, 2 March, 1, 4, 5, 6, 8 April 1859, pp. 292, 477, 921, 1014, 1035, 1090, 1147; Journal of the New York Senate, 9 April 1859, p. 715.)
    [6.] Byron, "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage," canto 2, stanza 76.